Fernando Alonso made the most of Ferrari’s pace and errors from his opposition to take his first race win in 2011, but as they did at Silverstone last year, Red Bull hogged the headlines – and for the wrong reasons
Given Ferrari’s pedigree and history in Formula One, it’s hard to imagine it existing under the radar – but that’s exactly what the famed Italian marque and Fernando Alonso did on Sunday at the British Grand Prix. That stealth was rewarded with a win on a day when their nearest rivals found new ways to self-destruct.
Alonso took his first victory of the 2011 season with an opportunistic win at Silverstone after a Red Bull pit lane gaffe left the door open for the two-time world champion.
Alonso, who started third on the grid and was in sight of Red Bull duo Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber for the first half of the race, made the most of a problematic pit stop for reigning world champion Vettel on lap 28, sweeping past the German out of the pit lane exit and into the lead as Vettel’s mechanics struggled to attach the left rear wheel to his car. Alonso saw an opportunity and powered away in typically relentless style, building an 11-second gap in just eight laps and cruising to victory by 16.511secs.
Alonso’s victory was Ferrari’s first since the Korean Grand Prix last October, and the 30-year-old Spaniard said the result provided the blueprint for Ferrari for the remainder of the season.
“Obviously it is a huge boost for us," Alonso said of his 27th career victory, which sees him tied for fifth on the all-time winner’s list with Sir Jackie Stewart.
“There are not championship thoughts at the moment because the gap is massive to Seb. We need to enjoy every weekend. We will have the same approach as we had in Malaysia and we had in Canada and here as well … to try to go for the victory, to try to go for the race.”
With Alonso untroubled at the front, the primary interest in the final stages of the race came in the battle for second between Red Bull teammates Vettel and Webber. Vettel had jumped poleman Webber into the first corner in damp conditions after yet another tardy start from the Australian, but after recovering from his own slow pit stop, Webber fought back superbly in the latter stages, and was inches behind his teammate as the pair set off on their 51st and penultimate lap.
Webber was shaping up to pass Vettel on the final lap before Red Bull team principal Christian Horner told him to hold station and “maintain the gap”. Horner was quick to defend the decision, hinting that Vettel was battling KERS issues late in the race, but Webber unsurprisingly had a different view one year after his famous “not bad for a number two driver” quip when he won the 2010 race at Silverstone.
The Australian admitted he’d ignored messages from the Red Bull pit wall not to pressure Vettel late in the race, and had some strong words on how he felt about the imposition of team orders when the reigning world champion was under pressure.
“I am not fine with it, that is the answer to that,” he said.
“If Fernando (Alonso) retires on the last lap, we are fighting for the win. Of course I ignored the team - I wanted to try and get a place.
“Seb was doing his best, I was doing my best. I wasn't going to crash with anyone.
“I just want to race until the end. Four or five laps to go, they started to chat to me about holding my position. I wanted the points, but I also wanted to get some more points as well.”
Behind the top three, McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton emerged as the best of the Brits at home, edging Ferrari’s Felipe Massa for fourth after a wheel-banging battle between the pair in the final three corners of the race. Hamilton, who qualified a lowly 10th, was as high as second after Vettel’s calamitous pit stop, but faded late in the race as his team urged him to drop his pace to save fuel.
While Hamilton was frustrated after the race, spare a thought for his teammate Jenson Button, who is still yet to make the podium at his home race after 12 attempts. The 2009 world champion was inside the top five before retiring on lap 41 after the team failed to fit his right front wheel correctly in his final pit stop, and Button made it as far as the pit lane exit before the wheel parted ways with his car.
At the tail end of the field, Australian debutant Daniel Ricciardo will be better for the experience of his maiden Grand Prix. The HRT driver finished 19th and last, three laps behind Alonso. Ricciardo’s fastest lap of the race was four-tenths of a second adrift of experienced teammate Tonio Liuzzi, and the 22-year-old West Australian will undoubtedly be reflecting on the lessons learned from his first Grand Prix in the coming days.
1. Vettel 204 points
2. Webber 124
3. Alonso 112
4. Hamilton 109
5. Button 109
6. Massa 52
1. Red Bull Racing 328 points
2. McLaren-Mercedes 218
3. Ferrari 164